Too Much of a Good Thing - How to Prevent Overtraining

Submitted by Bonnie Sedan on July 24, 2013

Sure exercise is good for you and like all other good things more should only be better, right? Well, here’s where the phrase “too much of a good thing” comes to mind. Too much training can leave you exhausted, irritable, and stressed out. In fact people who over-train are risking not only their performance but also their health.


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Overtraining Syndrome is the name given to the collection of physical, mental and emotional symptoms that develop as a result of over exercising and pushing oneself beyond the limit. Professional athletes and sports persons are the most susceptible to this type of severe exhaustion and inability to perform.

Signs of Overtraining

There are classic signs of overtraining that should never be ignored.

If you or someone you know shows any of the following signs and symptoms, it is important to contact a specialist and seek help immediately:

  • Lower performance levels – Overtraining has a direct effect on your ability to perform. This will show up in reduced speeds and poor levels of endurance and stamina. Workouts that were once enjoyable and challenging become boring and difficult.
  • Mood swings – Too much exercise affects the balance of hormones and can result irritability, anger, lack of concentration and alertness.
  • Severe fatigue and exhaustion – If you exercise everyday for hours at a stretch your body has no time to rest and rejuvenate. This will cause fatigue and an overall feeling of malaise.
  • Aches and illnesses – The body starts to crumble under too much pressure and overtraining can lead to persistent joint and muscle pain and more frequent illnesses.
  • Loss of appetite and insomnia – A body that is overtrained will not be able to slow down or relax completely. Under such situations, hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine levels increase and affect sleep patterns and inhibit the appetite.
  • Elevated heart rate – Overtraining does not allow the heart rate to return to normal, as there is no adequate rest period after a workout. A common sign of overtraining is a consistently elevated heart rate.
  • Menstrual problems – Women who over exercise tend to suffer from irregular periods or may have no periods at all. This is due to the inadequate amount of calories stored by the body and the imbalance of hormones.

How to Prevent Overtraining

The best solution for overtraining is to rest. What your body needs the most is time off. Muscles need time to repair themselves before they can perform to their optimum capability once again. If your workout focuses on weight training, aim to keep a day of rest between working the same muscle groups. If you prefer cardio, switch your routine so that your body does not fall into a repetitive groove as this increases your chance of injury. If you have to exercise every single day, make sure you add in a few low-intensity workouts in between your days of strenuous training. Other ways to prevent overtraining include:

  • Take it slow, especially if you are a beginner
  • Warm up well before your workout to prevent injuries and stretch before and after your workout to reduce the chance of damage
  • Eat well especially before and after a workout. Your body needs carbohydrates, protein and fats to recover and progress
  • Hydrate well and get enough sleep
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